7 Things I Learned from my Written Assessment

Recently, I had my written assessment at Launch School. For most, the Assessment should take approximately 3 hours to complete. For me, it took longer than that. Luckily, most of my answers were correct and overall, I completed it with a good result. It simply took me way too long. I’m writing this, because I learned a lot from that experience. There were things I could have done better that would have allowed me the same result but in half the time.

Firstly, I used an inadequate keyboard that affected my typing speed. I should have checked this and worked on my typing speed in advance. Secondly, I tried to rush through the questions to give myself extra time at the end for revisions. Rushing myself just led to more pressure and as a result, I started to over-explain every question. By over-explaining, I was dedicating significantly more time to each question than what I should have. This was poor time management. Lastly, I was second guessing my answers throughout most of the Assessment. Because I had been practicing by myself prior to the assessment, I had not developed effective time management skills or the ability to work effectively under pressure. Sure, I timed myself when completing practice questions, but I didn’t have the same pressure because I was doing it alone.

The good news is, I have learned a lot from my mistakes, and I am sharing those lessons with you. These are the 7 things I learned from it, that can help you manage your time effectively, and ace your next assessment.

  • A bad keyboard will affect your typing speed.
Photo by Juan Gomez on Unsplash

Having a good reliable keyboard is important. A keyboard that is suited to your hands and typing style will ultimately affect your typing speed. There are many quality keyboards in the market, and everyone needs to pick the right one for them (it’s a personal preference). While I cannot recommend which one to use, I can certainly recommend which one to avoid. I used my MacBook Air 13' for the assessment. I wrongly assumed that it would be better for me to take the assessment using my MacBook since I’ve been using it to practice. Bad idea. The keyboard is not suitable for fast typing. Your typing speed matters for written assessments and for the interview too, so if you can’t type fast, it’s wise to get a good keyboard to help you. Also, you can test your speed using sites like Keybr.com or play.typeracer.com.

  • You should always expect the unexpected.

I learned that you need to plan for the unexpected. No matter how prepared you are for the assessment, something can go south. It’s not the end of the world, and it should not derail your performance. While switching between tabs, I accidentally closed my IDE tab (luckily not the assessment tab). That was not ideal. This mistake created extra work, which meant more time, and unfortunately, an extra dose of adrenaline and cortisol. It’s important to stay calm if something like this happens, and if you manage your time correctly from the start, little setbacks won’t make or break your end result. Something unexpected may or may not happen during your assessment, but if it does, take a deep breath and keep going. Plan for some problems and be ready for any issues that arise.

  • Over-explaining can be detrimental to your performance.

This was a big one for me. I spent weeks doing practice questions and answered the questions easily within 9 minutes. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up doing the same during the assessment. I tried to ensure my answers were ‘perfect’ and by doing that, I began to over-explain. As a result, each question took significantly longer than it should have. Don’t strive for perfection and keep your answers too detailed, but concise and to the point.

  • Rushing through the start of the exam can slow you down in the end.

You might think this sounds like a strange piece of advice considering we are talking about time management. You might even think the best idea is to go as fast as you can. I tried that, and it didn’t work. Here’s why — when you rush through the start of the assessment, you can easily become overwhelmed. By the end, you have burnt yourself out and start second guessing your answers. I started rushing from the very start and I targeted to finish the assessment 20 minutes earlier so I can have some extra time left for revisions. That backfired, and I started questioning myself and my responses which ultimately led me to complete the exam slower in the end. Pace yourself and take your time.

  • Good study habits pay off.

I learned that your study habits make a significant impact on your test performance. You need to practice and study the same way you would as if you were actually writing the exam. I had spent too much time practicing by myself, where there was no pressure or anxiety about the end result. Had I spent more time simulating a test environment, teaming up with other people and then timing my performance, I would have had a more realistic idea of how the assessment would go. I highly recommend teaming up with someone and attending study sessions for extra insight. Your study partner can review your answers to ensure you aren’t over-explaining, and it will help take some of the stress off when you actually write your exam.

  • Practice, Practice, Practice.

Practice pays off, as they say. Even though I never felt totally ready for the assessment, I had to press the button and so I did it. Looking back, I should have practiced more and done so more effectively. The self-practice was fine, but I should have invested more time into it. Additionally, practicing with others helps. If you want to be more effective and move faster and better, find a study partner and live practice with them. Do this consistently and over time you will see results. I’ve learned there is no other way around it.

  • Take a breath.

After you complete a few questions, give yourself a few seconds to pause and breathe before you move on. This helps you pace yourself without rushing, and helps you manage your time effectively. By taking the time to pause, you are mentally prepared to move from one task to another.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Time management is key to a good performance. I learned a lot of lessons this time around that will benefit me in the future. Moving forward, I plan to practice strategically with others using a timer. I now know the importance of typing speed and how that can be affected by using an inadequate keyboard. Practicing consistently and being mindful throughout the assessment will ensure I develop effective time management skills. All these factors combined, I know I can apply these lessons and improve my results and yes, you can too.

Psychology, Programming, Stocks, and a good Whiskey